UPDATE 1-Venezuela to launch 'petro gold' cryptocurrency backed by gold -Maduro

-Maduro@ (Adds Maduro quote, context on petro)

CARACAS, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Venezuela next week will launch a cryptocurrency called "petro gold" that will be backed by gold, President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday, a day after opening the sale of the petro cryptocurrency that is to be backed by crude reserves.

Maduro is hoping that craze over digital tokens will help Venezuela skirt U.S. sanctions as it struggles under hyperinflation and a collapsing socialist economy.

Opposition leaders say the state-backed cryptocurrency is an illegal debt issuance, while blockchain experts expect it will attract little investment due to concerns about Venezuela's solvency and lack of transparency in its finances.

"Next week I'm going to launch the Petro Gold, backed by gold, which is even more powerful, that will strengthen the petro," Maduro said in a televised speech.

On Tuesday, he said the petro raised $735 million in the first day of a pre-sale.

The value of the entire petro issuance of 100 million tokens would be just over $6 billion, according to details given by Maduro in recent months. (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Tom Brown)